K-2SO became aware.
It took him longer than normal to realize this because there was simply nothing to be aware of except his own code. He had no access to his chassis or sensors of any kind, no network connection. There were only his thoughts.
Before a gap between the current moment and the control room in Scarif’s data tower, his memories were intact going back until the last temporary shutdown he’d experienced. This suggested that his data core had survived the destruction of his chassis and been reactivated.
K-2SO experienced surprise. Then, anguish: the survival of K-2’s core was an anomaly that most likely (ninety-nine point zero three percent chance) did not extend to Cassian. Then, anxiety: even if Cassian had somehow defied those overwhelming odds, he was probably (eighty-five point five percent chance) in great danger, perhaps (thirty-eight percent chance) even in Imperial custody.
In the same vein, there was an eighty-four point four percent chance K-2’s core had been salvaged by Imperials and was about to be stripped for Rebel secrets.
K-2SO felt fear. The Alliance, as it did with all its droids, had installed a quick-burn device next to his hard drive that could melt it into slag in under five seconds. Originally, it had been connected to a remote detonator issued to whichever operative he happened to be serving; the brass hadn’t known that Cassian, muttering that no one else had control of the poison-filled false tooth in his mouth, had turned K-2’s remote into what was effectively an expensive blinky light. The actual detonator he rewired to be accessible only to K-2SO.
Cassian hadn’t known, or at least K-2 was ninety percent sure he hadn’t known, that K-2SO had in turn done similar retrofits on the eight other droids he was able to get alone with the right tools.
But now, isolated from the physical world, K-2SO had no means to stop even a moderately skilled slicer. All he could do was create half a dozen partitions his hard drive, distribute the sensitive data in pieces across all of them, and hope that it was enough.
That done, he returned to analysis. There was a thirteen point eight percent chance his chassis had been disposed of and that his core had been picked up by scavengers an undetermined length of time later. Years could have passed. Decades. Probably not centuries (only a eighteen percent chance of that), though his core had a similar projected lifespan under certain environmental conditions. Given the moisture and salt on Scarif, his lack of memory loss suggested no more than thirty years had passed.
That left a one point seven percent chance that someone in Rogue One had survived, pulled K-2SO’s core, and escaped Scarif. Cassian or Jyn were the most likely of those.
He began to hope. It was counterproductive to harbor such ideas, but completely lacking external data, his own programming was all K-2SO had. He replayed his last simulation of Cassian’s survival. It helped regulate his processes.
Then, since he was still conscious, he ran new simulations: the survival of various members of Rogue One. The destruction of the Death Star. The downfall of the Empire. While he was at it, droids being recognized as free sentient beings.
His favorite projection, when it came down to it, was the one in which he, Cassian, Jyn, and Bodhi watched the Death Star explode from the cockpit of their shuttle.
[K-2? Can you respond?]
K-2SO paused his simulation. There was no indication of where the message came from. No time-stamp. It just appeared in his temporary memory.
K-2 considered the costs and benefits of responding. A few seconds later, another message appeared.
[This is Bodhi Rook, if you remember me. Cassian, Jyn the Guardians and I all made it off Scarif.]
K-2 desperately wanted that to be true.
[The plans did, too. The Death Star is gone.]
K-2SO found that highly suspicious. Could the outsider have been observing his simulations?
Perhaps. But why would they require his response? If it was the Empire trying to data-mine him, why not just take what they wanted and melt him down?
[Are you alright?]
The Empire definitely wouldn’t ask after his well-being. If it was a deception, it was a good one. [Your core looks intact but I guess something could have fried it at some point. We were pretty close to the superlaser.]
Interesting. That suggested the Death Star had fired on Scarif, a course of action which only made sense if the Rebels had actually been succeeding.
[I'm not cleared for an assignment yet. I thought I’d rebuild you in the meantime, but if you’re not there...Well, there might be some other reason you’re not responding. I’ll do some more work before I know for sure if you’re really gone.]
If he’d had a vocoder, K-2 would have simulated a sigh. Just listening was getting boring, anyway.
He erased all the incoming messages and formulated one of his own in their place. [I can respond. How much time has passed?]
[Thirty-eight days since Scarif,] the reply came immediately. [I’m glad you’re in there. Have you lost any memory?]
Thirty-eight days. It was good to know that.
[No. My datacore is intact. Has Cassian sustained injuries? Or you or Jyn?]
[Cassian had broken ribs and femur and a bad concussion, but the bacta fixed him up pretty good,] Bodhi replied. [Jyn’s knee has been slower to heal, but she’s adapted her crutches into her fighting style. It’s both inspiring and terrifying.]
K-2 still couldn’t be sure any of it was true, but he could draw comfort from the simulations of others as well as his own. [I would like to see that.]
[I can make optics a priority,] Bodhi offered. [You’d still be disembodied but you’d be able to see.]
[Please,] K-2 said.
A few seconds passed.
[You have not mentioned your own health,] K-2 pointed out.
[I’d rather not talk about it,] came the reply. [I’m alive and free. That’s the important thing, isn’t it?]
That only intensified K-2’s curiosity, but if it really was Bodhi Rook and if he really did connect some optics, K-2SO would discover the truth on his own soon enough.
[Yes, it is,] he agreed. Paused. [I wish you speedy healing.]
There were no more messages for a while, and K-2 calculated it likely that Bodhi had disconnected before a reply came.
The conversation continued, about such topics as Cassian’s current location (out on a scouting mission), what exactly had happened regarding the Death Star and Yavin (a miraculous shot that didn’t change the fact that the Empire had tracked their location), K-2’s original chassis (left and subsequently vaporized on Scarif), the Alliance’s droid parts inventory (sparse), and the prospect of machining a new chassis entirely from scratch (time-consuming, but possible). K-2 directed Bodhi to the files storing his schematics, asked to be left plugged in, and then was left to himself again when Bodhi had to go.
This time, K-2 ran simulations of where he might be, Bodhi’s projected rate of success in accurately reproducing K-2’s chassis, and what the pilot’s most likely injuries were. Based on his processing rate (between fifty and one hundred fifty petaFLOPS, depending on environmental conditions) he estimated that he was left like this for somewhere between three and nine hours, more likely closer to nine.
[I’m back,] a message said. [Hang on while I connect the camera.]
K-2 waited. Ninety-three or two hundred seventy-nine seconds later, he detected a new hardware connection. It was a simple camera, single lens, dilating aperture, a swivel apparatus with one hundred twenty degrees’ range of horizontal motion. He activated it.
He saw the interior of a small room, what looked like personnel quarters on a ship. The camera detected a much narrower spectrum of light than he was used to; his optical subroutines, calibrated for much more advanced photoreceptors, were clogging K-2’s display with the tag ‘unknown’ over and over again. He had to adjust his settings before he could process any more of the simplified input.
Sitting at the desk was, in fact, Bodhi Rook, who was wearing a too-large Alliance shirt and the mechanic’s goggles he was apparently never without. The camera was tilted upwards so that K-2 could see much of the room, but Bodhi only from the chest up. Presumably he was using an interface device of some kind, probably a datapad, wired directly to K-2SO’s core.
[Hello, Bodhi,] K-2 said. [You have more color in your skin and appear better rested than you were on Scarif.]
Bodhi blinked, looked at the camera, and laughed. It was the first time K-2 had seen him laugh - with a smile wider than expected, eyes brighter - though he still hadn’t heard it. Existence without audio input was frustratingly incomplete.
[I should hope so,] Bodhi said, still smiling as he wrote. [Glad the camera’s working.]
[Aural sensors next,] K-2 said. [I dislike silence.]
Bodhi grinned and held up what looked like a comm link.
[Forethought,] K-2 said. [From a human. I’m almost impressed.]
Bodhi snorted, and then his face relaxed into concentration as he worked. His expression became frustrated several times, but only for a moment or two before smoothing out again.
Suddenly, K-2 detected another connection.
“Kay-tu? Can you hear me?” Bodhi said.
[Yes,] K-2 answered. He experimented with the speaker function on the comm link, a hiss of static making Bodhi jump. “Can you hear - oh, this is unpleasant,” K-2 said. It was a transmission device, not a voice synthesizer, and the words came out as more interference than syllable. K-2 gave up and switched back to text. [I miss my old vocabulator.]
“Yeah, I don’t blame you,” Bodhi said. Then he sighed and rubbed his face. “I think there was a voice box on the spare parts list...it’s not like your old one, but it would be better than the comm link.” He smiled. “Still, not bad for a day and a half.”
[I suppose not,] K-2 agreed.
K-2 shared the schematics for his chassis and Bodhi spent the next two point one hours studying them with the droid’s commentary. To begin with Bodhi was alert and engaged, even interested. When discussing the particular durasteel mixture used in the KX series, he listened carefully to K-2’s hardware requirements and suggested two alternative alloys, in case Home One didn’t have the original. However, after the first hundred minutes Bodhi spoke less and less until he hadn’t spoken at all for ten.
[How long have you been awake?] K-2 asked.
Bodhi yawned, then chuckled. “Too long, apparently.”
[You should sleep. We can continue after you wake and eat.]
Sighing, Bodhi stood and stretched. “Yeah, that’s probably a good idea. Do you...”
K-2 waited, but only a few seconds. [Yes?]
Bodhi shrugged. “Do you want me to hook up something to do? I can’t network you with the ship, but I could plug in a holo or a novel or something. I just, it just seems like it would be boring to spend hours by yourself with nothing to do.”
[That’s surprisingly thoughtful,] K-2 said. [I appreciate the gesture, but it isn’t necessary. I have many simulations to run.]
Bodhi shrugged again. His right arm was stiffer than the left, K-2 noticed. That must have been a product of one of the injuries he didn’t want to talk about. Nerve damage, perhaps. That would explain his frustration with simple tasks.
“Okay, if you’re sure.” He grasped the hem of his shirt, then stopped. “Uh...could you turn off the camera for a minute or two? I need to change.”
[Your clothing or lack thereof does not affect me,] K-2SO pointed out.
Bodhi let out a huff and looked away, one hand on the opposite shoulder, elbow against his chest. “That’s...it’s not about that. I’d just like some privacy.”
Turning off the camera for a few minutes would be a small thing, but K-2SO realized that mild conflict was a good opportunity to expand his dataset of Bodhi's behavior patterns. While he knew plenty about the defector’s choices and reactions when the fate of the galaxy was at stake, and now had data about him under no pressure at all, he still didn't know what Bodhi prioritized at intermediary levels of stress.
Not to mention that having so little data about the person he depended on for his continued existence was making him nervous.
[I'd rather not,] K-2 said.
Bodhi dropped his eyes, mouth twisting, and shifted his weight back onto his heels. K-2SO predicted his response: he was fifty-two percent likely to turn off or cover the camera himself, forty percent likely to try to ignore K-2 and change anyway, with eight percent left for an assortment of other minor possibilities.
“Uh, okay. I’ll just…” Bodhi sighed and moved to the locker at the end of his berth to get some clothing. “I’ll just do it in the ‘fresher.”
And he left.
K-2SO, slowed by his own surprise, needed more time than usual to process this.
Contrary to predictions, Bodhi valued modesty and K-2’s autonomy more highly than his own convenience. Which was...pleasing. K-2SO didn’t feel completely safe (not that anyone or anything ever was), but he hadn’t realized how anxious he’d been until he suddenly wasn’t anymore.
Of course he still needed more data to know just how far he could trust Bodhi. To begin he'd continue to refuse to shut down the camera. That wouldn't reveal what Bodhi did value more than K-2’s free will, but an opportunity to find out might present itself later.
The door hissed open, and Bodhi walked back in wearing standard-issue Alliance sleep pants and an oversized shirt. He draped his day clothes over the back of the chair, and thumbed off the lights.
“I can’t sleep with the lights on,” Bodhi said. “The charging dock diodes should be enough to see by, yeah?”
[Yes,] K-2 said, widening the aperture of the camera, then wondered if Bodhi had forgotten he wasn’t looking at the interface. “Yes,” he tried through the comm link again, as quietly as he could. It came out as a buzzing whisper.
“Oh, the interface, right,” Bodhi murmured. He was curled up in bed, lying on his left side, which left his back to the worktable. “‘Night, Kay,” he said, and waved a hand over his shoulder.
The affection the gesture induced was, K-2SO calculated, most likely a byproduct of his relief.
“Good night, Bodhi.”
In the morning, Bodhi didn’t even ask K-2 to turn off the camera, just picked up his clothes and left the room.
“I’ll be back in a little while,” Bodhi said when he returned to toss his pajamas on the bunk. “I’m going to get breakfast and then dig up that vocoder. And a better battery. Maybe something to carry you with…”
[I’ll just wait here,] K-2 responded. He didn’t have any way to convey dryness, but Bodhi smiled anyway.
Zero point seventy-one hours later, Bodhi returned carrying a crate with a mug of caf balanced on top.
“Okay, so I’ll hook up the vocoder first,” he said, pulling parts and tools out and setting them around his workstation. “Then we can figure out your new head.”
[Can you change the camera angle so I can watch you work?] K-2 asked.
Bodhi went still and silent for a moment, then swallowed and nodded. K-2’s field of vision wobbled as Bodhi fixed the camera and then he could see the desk.
The vocoder was old, and looked like it had come from a medical droid. It wouldn’t sound exactly like his old one, but anything was better than silence or the terrible sound quality of the comm link. Its output sockets required Bodhi to open them with pliers before he could insert new wiring. As Bodhi worked K-2 observed that his left hand was more dextrous than his right, even though he kept grabbing things with his right hand as if it were his dominant.
The first wire procedure went smoothly. The second time Bodhi tried to open the socket, it was fastened more tightly, and the pliers slipped off, the force behind his motion translating into Bodhi’s hand violently hitting the desk.
“Kriff,” he hissed, dropping the pliers and glaring. Was it at his fingers, or was K-2’s camera just at a strange angle? “Damned malfunctioning...”
He looked much more frustrated and angry than hurt, K-2 noted. Which could be because—
[Is that a prosthetic?]
Bodhi stiffened, then deflated. He slumped back in the chair, left hand covering his face, right hanging motionless at his side. Now that K-2 knew what to look for, he could see that the synthskin cover was devoid of the scars and freckles from the pre-Scarif images in his memory banks.
“Yeah,” Bodhi said at last. “Yeah, it’s...and the leg, too,” he added, bouncing his right knee. “That one’s been easier, but the arm…”
K-2 searched his medical files. Organics took poorly to losing parts of their bodies, though Bodhi seemed to be doing remarkably well for someone who’d lost two at once.
[Requires more fine calibration. I understand now why you’re rebuilding me.]
Bodhi sat back up. “What? No, Kay.” He shook his head. “It’s convenient that rebuilding you doubles as physical therapy, but I’d do it anyway.” His voice softened almost to the point of inaudibility. “I mean, after Eadu we’re...well, I mean I consider us friends.”
[Yes,] K-2 said, more pleased than he would have predicted. [We are friends.]
Bodhi smiled, a little sad and considerably tired, but still a smile.
“Glad to hear it.”
After a break, Bodhi returned to work. His prosthetic failed him another four times, but in minor ways, and he just sighed and kept going.
“Try that,” he said later, laying down the hydrospanner.
“Hello,” K-2 said. It came out high-pitched and warbled with the age of the vocoder.
Bodhi burst out laughing, and K-2 paused. For some reason seeing and hearing him laugh improved his mood.
He recalibrated the vocoder to a lower pitch. Much lower. “B҉ODH҉I?" This time it sounded like a sentient rancor filtered through the engine of a capital ship, and Bodhi’s laughter redoubled, his whole body shaking, tears at the corners of his eyes. “T̨H͢IS ̨IS N̢O͠T͢ CO̵ND̕U̢C҉ĮV҉E̵ T̵O ͞EA̸SY̛ ͜COM̡MUNIC̕A͏T̸I͝ON.̷”
“You should -” Bodhi tried, but couldn’t get enough air in his lungs. Hand covering his face, he took deliberate breaths through a grin he couldn’t suppress, and after one point nine minutes tried again. “You should use that one with the generals, Force, can you imagine the looks on their faces?”
K-2 could. “HA ̴HA̢ ̡HA͝.”
Bodhi's laughter, by that point silent for lack of air, carried him down the chair and then onto the floor beyond K-2's view.
“Bodhi?” he said in a voice that was at least the same pitch as his old one. “Are you alright?”
He heard a deep gasp from the floor. “Yeah,” Bodhi said, still half breathless with laughter. “I'm fine, Kay.”
K-2 made a few more adjustments. “Good,” he said, and his new voice was close enough to satisfy him for the moment. “Your wellbeing is important.” He waited a few seconds until Bodhi's breathing had slowed somewhat. “It would be such a pain to find someone else to rebuild me.”
As he'd intended (hoped?), Bodhi dissolved into laughter yet again.
“What do you think?” Bodhi asked, pulling the pieces of K-2SO’s new head out of the fabricator. He held them up one at a time to the camera, which itself was perched on the shoulder of the improvised harness that also carried K-2’s core, vocoder, battery, and comm link. “See anything amiss?”
K-2 focused and re-focused the camera on the skull casing and face plates. Bodhi held them steady until K-2 told him to turn them over.
“It’s hard to tell when I only have the human-visible spectrum,” he said. “But everything looks correct.”
Bodhi grinned. “Good. Let’s talk paint jobs. How do you feel about flames?”
K-2 scoffed. “Boring. Painting it to look like a human skull, on the other hand, might be entertaining. The more realistic the better.”
“What about a flaming skull?” There was a glint in Bodhi’s eyes.
“I like the way you think,” K-2 said.
Laughing, Bodhi brought the pieces to the stress test chamber. He ran the evaluations according to K-2’s instructions.
“Those are acceptable results,” K-2 said in another half hour.
“It’s good to hear your new head will be as hard as your original,” Cassian said from the doorway behind them. A surge of joy turned K-2SO’s camera around as quickly as the hardware allowed.
Cassian stood unsupported, though he was leaning three degrees to one side. He looked like he’d had average sleep (for him), was mildly underfed, and seemed paler than he’d been on Scarif.
“You’ve been skipping meals,” K-2 accused.
The crinkling of Cassian’s eyes broke into a full smile. “Actually I’ve been gaining back weight. I lost a lot in Medical.”
“I’ll believe that when I see your records,” K-2 said.
Cassian stepped closer and clasped Bodhi’s arm. “Thank you,” he said, voice the same volume as before but more focused.
Bodhi shrugged. “I’m happy to. He’s good company.”
Cassian blinked. Looked at the camera. Looked back at Bodhi’s face. K-2 didn’t blame him; the only other person who’d ever said that, or something like it, was Cassian himself.
“Glad you’re getting along,” Cassian said, still somewhat bemused.
“Captain!” a voice called. Then a youngish human with light hair jogged up to Cassian and clapped a hand on his shoulder.
Cassian pursed his lips and turned around. “Yes?”
“They’re ready for us in debrief,” the other human said.
Cassian sighed. “Well, it was good to talk to you, Kay, Bodhi.” Then he and the other human left.
“He really is looking healthier,” Bodhi said. “I saw him in medbay.”
“I would still like to see his files,” K-2 replied, “But thank you.”
Bodhi went back to the head plating. He gathered it up and took it all back to his quarters, which was starting to look more like a workshop with a bed than a bedroom with a workbench. He spread the pieces on the table, then started pulling other parts out of crates and compartments.
“So! I dug around some, and we’ve only got one set of compatible auditory sensors, but two pairs of optics. You get to pick a color.” He plugged one of each set into the power supply, then held them up to the camera.
“What do you think? Green or amber?”
“The functionality matters, not the color,” K-2 said.
“They have the same specs,” Bodhi answered. “And they’re the most advanced ones we have. I almost had to fight a wookiee for these.”
“It’s fortunate that it was ‘almost.’ You would have lost.”
Bodhi snorted. “Trust me, I know. So? Which one?”
“I have no color preferences,” K-2 said. However, he knew that organics did. “Whichever you think is best.”
“Hm. Okay,” Bodhi said, holding up the optics, then placing them in the face plate to see how they might look. Then he took a breath as if to answer, but stopped. Let his chest sink.
“Green was always my favorite color,” he murmured.
“You don’t look like someone contemplating their favorite anything,” K-2 pointed out after a few seconds.
Bodhi shook his head. “It’s just...the kyber crystals in the temple back home would shine like this sometimes.” He closed his eyes. Hugged his organic arm around himself. K-2, unsure of what to do, hesitated. He had not yet accumulated a dataset that could help him predict the best course of action.
The camera’s image jumped. Then again. Then K-2 shut it off because Bodhi’s sobbing was rendering the visual input chaotic. He cut power to the green optic while he was at it.
Listening to Bodhi cry was deeply unsettling. K-2 felt a strong need to do something.
Laying a hand on a shoulder might have been a good idea, but that required hands. Maybe he could produce some kind of white noise, to indicate attention and presence without being intrusive? He began humming softly, a very slow version of a popular melody Bodhi had sung along to four days prior.
Bodhi continued to cry. K-2 hadn’t felt as helpless in a long time.
However, it wasn’t forever. After six minutes, Bodhi had stopped sobbing, respiration rate beginning to return to normal. K-2 turned the camera back on. He kept humming until the end of the next verse.
Eyes red, face streaked with tears, Bodhi smiled. “Thanks for the song.” His expression slid back into melancholy. “It just hits me harder at times, you know? The fact that it’s all gone.”
K-2 processed. “That does seem to be a pattern with humans, yes. Many aspects of your psychology seem cyclical.”
“Yeah,” he agreed, and found a tissue. “Not droids?”
He paused to consider. “I suppose we also run on cycles, but they’re much faster.”
Bodhi nodded. “Not surprising.”
They were silent for a moment, before K-2 hummed again to get Bodhi’s attention. As Bodhi looked up at the camera, K-2 said, “After careful analysis I have decided I prefer the amber optics. They come with fewer sentimental complications.”
Bodhi gave a watery laugh and lost some of his melancholy. He glanced down at the parts, pushed the green optic to the back edge of the worktable, and started assembling the head. “Feel free to tell me to fuck off, but is there anything you miss? Besides your chassis, I mean.”
K-2 watched Bodhi work for eighty-one seconds before answering. “Sometimes I miss the certainty. My existence was much simpler when I was obedient to the Empire.”
Bodhi gave the camera a half-surprised, half-amused look. “Same here.”
Prosthetic hand quavering a bit, Bodhi put the parts down, took a deep breath, and rolled his shoulders. It was a relaxation technique K-2 had watched him use before.
“I also miss using my primary programming.”
Picking the face plate back up, Bodhi began installing the optical socket apparatus. “Your security programming?”
“Yes. I hardly ever engage in ground combat or detaining prisoners.”
“Huh.” Bodhi frowned but didn’t voice whatever he was feeling. “Well, I can at least sympathize with not being able to do the things you like. I haven’t flown since Scarif.”
“Hm. Perhaps when the rebuild is finished, I can fight and you can pilot.”
Bodhi finished installing the socket, a slight smile on his face. “That sounds nice. What about Cassian, though? Won’t you want to work with him?”
K-2, to his own surprise, paused before answering. “He doesn’t need my help on all of his assignments. Perhaps I could go on combat missions when I am unnecessary.”
Bodhi nodded. “That makes sense. Better than sitting around bored, yeah?”
After installing K-2’s optics, auditory sensors and central core in his skull casing, Bodhi found a motorized chair and connected its controls to K-2. It was good to have some freedom of movement again, even as he had to wait for his spine to be made before he could turn his head.
The obvious discomfort most organics had with a disembodied head traveling the ship by itself in the dead of night was quite satisfactory, too.
Even Cassian, when K-2 found him awake in his own quarters like the insomniac workaholic he was, seemed torn between unease and amusement. “How long will you be like that, do you think?”
K-2 glanced to the side in lieu of a shrug. “Between five and twenty days until my torso is complete. Another ten to eighteen before I have arms again.”
“Speaking of which, I require assistance,” K-2 said. “I need information and I can’t network myself.”
Cassian looked unimpressed. “I’m not giving you my clearance codes.”
K-2 simulated a sigh. “No, I don’t need those. I just need you to network me with a terminal that can access the holonet.”
A small frown creased Cassian’s brow. “Is this time-sensitive?”
“Yes and no,” K-2 answered. “Look, can you network me now and interrogate me afterwards? There’s a port right behind you.”
Skeptical expression notwithstanding, Cassian shrugged and used the chair control cable to plug into the wall socket. K-2 began running a search in the public holonet.
“So what does ‘yes and no’ mean, and why can’t Bodhi do this? There’s a public terminal on every level of the ship.”
K-2 suddenly felt vulnerable. Strangely, he wasn’t sure it was a bad thing.
“I want to know more about what Bodhi has lost. Asking him to help would likely upset him. I thought it best he doesn't know at all.”
Cassian’s eyes softened. “What are you researching?”
Taking a deep breath, Cassian’s frown came back. K-2 suddenly doubted his plan. “Is that too intrusive?”
Biting his lip, Cassian shook his head. “Not just researching it, no. But you shouldn’t bring it up unless he does.”
“I haven’t been.”
Some of the tension fell from Cassian’s shoulder. “Good.”
K-2 scanned his friend and sighed. “Your eyes are bloodshot. Go to sleep.”
A snort. “Why didn’t I think of that?”
“You don’t have any missions for the next week,” K-2 pointed out. “Take a sedative.”
Cassian scrubbed his face. Sighed. Then opened his locker, took out his personal first aid kit, and dug out a pill.
“That was easier than usual. Are you feeling ill?”
“Funny.” Cassian rolled his eyes. “It’s just…”
“Just...?” K-2 prompted.
Cassian shrugged out of his jacket, unbuckled his belt, stepped out of his pants on his way to the bunk. K-2 found himself wondering again at humans’ varying levels of modesty. “Just that now there are enough people bothering me to take care of myself that it’s easier to go along with it,” he yawned. As he lay down, a sleepy smile curled his lips. “Luke’s almost as bad as you are.”
“I see,” K-2 said, and added ‘Luke’ to his research list.
From the relatively new vantage point of his own shoulders, K-2 watched Bodhi work on the cooling system that would be housed in his chest plating. “What sort of flying do you want to do? Did you like piloting cargo?”
Frowning only partially in concentration, Bodhi began wrapping the coolant hoses in insulation. “Cargo was boring, but I don’t want to fly fighters. Not anymore.” His eyes drifted into a thousand-yard stare, and then he shook himself. “But maybe something a little more exciting than cargo. Do you think I’d make a good pirate?”
K-2 considered. “You’d be good at everything but the lack of remorse.”
Bodhi grinned. “I’d be stealing from the Empire. Wouldn’t feel bad for that.”
“That would be imbecilic. You’re their most wanted traitor.”
The grin hardened into a bleak smile. “I’ve always been a gambling man.”
K-2 simulates one instance - just one - and calculates the chances of success or failure.
“No,” K-2 said.
Bodhi raised an eyebrow. “I really have always gambled. Sabacc, mostly, but—”
“The chances of being caught, even in a relatively low-risk scenario, are high. Very high.” K-2 noticed a new, humming undertone in his vocoder but was too agitated to do anything about it. “I’m sure there are things you could do that don’t involve getting close enough to be easily captured. Flying civilian transports—”
“They killed Jedha!” Bodhi pushed away from the worktable and started pacing, voice rising with every step. “They killed Jedha because of me! And that's after I helped them build the damn thing!”
“Wrong on several counts,” K-2 said, voice as cold as it was scathing. “If someone else had carried Galen Erso’s message, the Empire could still have tracked them to Jedha.” Sighing, his anger faded into irritation. “Perhaps they’d have destroyed that pilot’s home city instead, but it’s slightly more likely that because of Saw they still would have targeted Jedha. Now, maybe if you’d accepted the message but spaced it at the first opportunity, Jedha would still exist. But so would the Death Star, and the Empire would still have destroyed Alderaan, and they’d still be looking for its next target.
“Saw Gerrera would still be alive, and he would continue to fight. There are other worlds the Empire would have targeted first - Mon Cala, Kashyyyk, Ryloth - but it would only be a matter of time before they destroyed Jedha, too. Two years at most.” K-2 sighed again before continuing in a gentler tone. “All of which means that your taking the message did the most good for the most people. Your intermittent awareness of this fact is vexing."
Bodhi opened his mouth, but K-2 didn't let him interject. "And whatever blame you actually deserve for working for the Empire, most organic belief systems agree that you atoned for that when you made it possible to destroy the Death Star and thereby saved billions of lives. You were brave enough. You made it right.”
Bodhi shook his head, stubborn, but the pain and anger on his face were fighting with hope, too. He was silent for a long moment, feet still carrying him back and forth, hands opening and closing in his agitation.
“Okay, so maybe I don’t have to do it. Maybe I still want to.”
K-2’s subroutines pulled up short. “Oh, I see. Sabacc isn’t enough, so you’ll throw yourself into danger for the thrill.”
Bodhi spun around to face K-2. “So what if I did? I’d still be doing good for the Rebellion. Whose business is it if I risk myself?”
“Last I checked, most people consider the wellbeing of their friends their business,” K-2 snapped. “And here I thought Cassian made me want to pull my wires out. You’re even worse than he is.”
Bodhi drew back, surprised, and then all the lines of anger in his body visibly softened. “You’re worried about me?”
K-2 looked at the ceiling as if a remedy to human death wishes were written there. It was a nonverbal signal he’d learned from Mothma, one he was fond of even if he also wished he had fewer reasons to use it. “No,” he said in his most sarcastic tone. “I’m morally opposed to theft.”
With an unwilling laugh, Bodhi shook his head, and the rest of his violent emotions left all at once. He sat, slumping wearily, leaning closer and closer to K-2’s chair until his forehead was resting against the droid’s chest plate.
“Thanks, Kay,” Bodhi murmured. He rested his arms on those of the chair, not quite curling around K-2.
K-2, strangely, found this dissatisfying. Moreover, he felt the odd (and currently futile) urge to embrace Bodhi. It was highly frustrating.
Bodhi was still yawning himself awake when the door chimed.
“You good?” he asked K-2.
“Yes.” It was a bit of a distracted answer. He was still fine-tuning the power system installed the previous day.
Bodhi opened the door.
“Morning,” Cassian said, looking alert and yet also relaxed. That was unusual.
“Cassian!” Bodhi grinned. “Good to see you back.”
“Likewise,” Cassian nodded. “Kay. Are you mobile?”
“Good. We’re going over the next Intelligence op. I want you there for analysis and the new council have finally agreed.”
All at once, K-2 was focused. “It’s about time.”
Cassian unplugged K-2’s charging cable and strode from the room. K-2 eagerly followed, though he paused on the threshold.
Bodhi was sitting on his berth, fiddling with his datapad. When K-2 stopped, he looked up smiling, but something was off.
“I’m glad they know what you’re worth,” Bodhi said. His eyes darted back down to the datapad, then to the side.
K-2 felt simultaneous pride and indignation. “Don't they want Bodhi's presence too?" he asked Cassian. "He knows more about Imperial logistics than anyone else.”
In the corridor, Cassian shifted uneasily. “It’s, uh. I tried to convince them, but they don’t think they need you for this one, Bodhi. I’m sorry.”
Bodhi shook his head. “It’s...it’s fine. It’s not much fun to talk about anyway.” He cleared his throat and stood up. This time the smile fit perfectly, but K-2 wasn’t fooled.
“Go be brilliant,” he said to them. Or was it just to K-2? “I’m fine, I have some things I’ve been wanting to do anyway.”
There was really nothing K-2SO could do about the situation, so he nodded. After the door hissed closed behind him, he couldn’t help but feel like he was on the wrong side of it.
Asleep, Bodhi’s whole body tensed up under the sheets.
“No,” he whispered.
At night, the only light came from K-2’s eyes and the charging dock, so Bodhi’s face was still in shadow. K-2 gave a movement command, and his chair rolled forward.
“Bodhi?” K-2 said.
Bodhi didn’t respond. His hands were fisted in the sheets.
“No, I defected, I defected!” he hissed.
A nightmare. K-2 knew how to handle Cassian’s, but Bodhi was different in so many other ways…
“No!” Now he was screaming.
K-2 turned up his vocoder’s volume. Reminding Bodhi what was real couldn’t hurt. “Bodhi. This is Kay-tuesso. You are on Home One. ”
“Kay?” Bodhi said, confused, and for a moment K-2 thought it had worked. “No! Stop it, he isn’t Imperial either, please, stop it, don’t hurt him, I’m telling the truth, I brought the message—” and then he screamed, harshly enough that K-2 was worried he was damaging his vocal chords.
“Not having arms is really inconvenient,” he muttered, and rolled himself to the light switch, angling his head to hit it just right. After four tries, the room brightened, and he went back to Bodhi.
He drove the chair against the side of the berth repeatedly. “Bodhi. Bodhi, wake up.”
The human would be fine, K-2 told himself. Maybe some damage to his throat, maybe some light bruises from the thrashing, being tired the next day from poor sleep. No long-lasting harm from this one bout of nightmares.
But his other processes disagreed. Bodh’s distress was beginning to distress K-2.
Finally, finally Bodhi shook one last time and opened his eyes.
“Kay?” Bodhi said, and then squinted up at him. “Kay, your arms!...Oh. Right.” He brought a hand to his forehead, breaths still coming too fast.
“Do you remember where you are?” K-2 asked.
Bodhi nodded. “These are my quarters on Home One, ” he said, and it felt like recitation. “I’ve been living here for...something like two months. You don’t have any arms because I haven’t built them yet.”
“All that is true,” K-2 said. He watched somewhat helplessly as Bodhi gulped air and let himself shake. It was his body’s natural response to the adrenaline his pituitary had dumped into his system, K-2 reminded himself. Humans were designed to do that.
“Would it help to go for a walk?” K-2 suggested.
“Uh, yeah, probably. Sorry for all the,” he waved one hand around in a gesture, searching for the right word, “uproar.”
“Your apology is unnecessary,” K-2 said. He rolled back so Bodhi would have room to stand up. “Put your jacket and shoes on.”
Bodhi grunted and complied. Then he paused at the doorway. “It’s okay if you stay here,” he said, and Bodhi was normally a good liar but K-2 had no problem reading the truth.
“You’re in the way,” K-2 pointed out.
As Bodhi stepped through the doorway to make way for the chair, his lips curved up the tiniest amount.
They moved through the corridors of the ship together, K-2 watching Bodhi for signs of a panic attack, Bodhi focusing on his steps. They stopped to look out of a viewport at the stars and the other Rebel ships flying in formation, Bodhi’s unease finally beginning to dissipate. By the time they were back in their quarters, the human was shuffling in sleepiness, and after he lay down again, he slept the rest of the night.
K-2’s forearm lay still on the worktable, pistons exposed, wires trailing out everywhere. Bodhi sat nearly motionless himself, goggles in magnification mode, breath coming slowly and carefully. For once, neither of them spoke; wiring K-2’s arms was a delicate task. Even just negotiating the wires onto just the right circuit took concentration.
Terminal end of the wire placed, Bodhi picked up his cold soldering iron and began attaching it to the main breadboard. He was looking pleased until his prosthetic hand released the pressure on the soldering iron a fraction of a second too late, melting the end of the wire into its casing.
“Sithspit!” Bodhi slammed the tool onto the worktable, stood up, and stalked a tight circle around his quarters.
K-2 gave him two minutes to pace.
“Is the synthskin equipped with sensors?” K-2 asked.
Bodhi stopped. “No,” he said, frowning at the offending limb. “It’s for protection and looks.”
K-2 tilted his head. After weeks of not having a head at all, he'd promised himself not to take that small action for granted again. “But there are sensors in the metal fingertips, yes?”
“Then take off the synthskin. You should have approximately fifty-eight percent more control without it.”
“They said it would be harder to mentally adapt to the prosthetic without it.” Bodhi looked down at his hands. “But I can always put it back on, I guess.”
He stepped out. When he returned, his right shirtsleeve hung loosely from the bicep down, metal hand held awkwardly by his side. He held the synthskin in his organic hand.
“This looks fairly creepy when it’s flopping around like this, don’t you think?” He jiggled it in K-2’s direction.
“Now you know how I feel looking at organics. You’ll get used to it.”
Bodhi snorted, put the glove down on the bed, and returned to the worktable.
He took a deep breath, then held both hands up to look at them.
“With the synthskin on, sometimes I’d forget,” Bodhi said. “It felt like most of my arm being numb, my hand stuck in a glove, but it was close enough.”
K-2 made a noise to indicate comprehension. “Medical files indicate that acceptance of loss is an important step in recovery.”
Bodhi huffed. “I know.” He picked up the soldering iron again. “This is already better,” he said, pleasantly surprised.
“It looks better, too. The metal is more aesthetically pleasing than the synthskin and accentuates the uniquely organic qualities of your other hand.”
Bodhi stared up at K-2, soldering iron motionless. His complexion was becoming flushed.
“What?” K-2 said.
Shaking his head, Bodhi turned back to his work. “Just, uh, surprised. Um. Thanks.”
This was not an entirely satisfactory answer, but he’d seen Bodhi awkward in the face of compliments before.
In any case, K-2 had been right about the synthskin: there were no more mistakes brought on by mishandled tools.
“And...done,” Bodhi said, closing the access panel in K-2’s upper arm.
K-2 rebooted. When he came online again, he could sense and control the new arm as if it were part of his original chassis. He picked up all the tools one by one and twined extra wire around his fingers before putting all of it away just because he could.
When he looked back at Bodhi, the human was smiling at him. The sudden warmth K-2 felt was, he decided, due to the adjustments he had to make to the functioning of the chassis to account for the added limb.
“My arm is fully integrated,” K-2 said. “Projections indicate it is likely to remain such.”
Bodhi's smile changed into a grin. “You’re welcome.”
K-2 waited in the corridor with Jyn. He was glad to be accompanying her and Bodhi, even if only for a simple meal.
“Bodhi, are you coming or not?” Jyn called through the door.
“Give me a minute,” he called, and Jyn sighed. She was impatient when hungry, a refreshing quality after years of having to remind Cassian to eat.
One hundred twelve seconds later, the door swished open. Bodhi was dressed, goggles left on the worktable, and he was smiling.
Jyn, to her credit, merely glanced at the exposed metal of Bodhi’s arm before dragging him towards the mess hall.
“Alright, everyone, prepare to be beaten,” Han Solo said with a grin, slapping a deck of sabacc cards onto the table. Cassian snorted, Jyn smirked, Baze raised one eyebrow, and Bodhi smiled nervously.
“I do not predict that will be necessary,” K-2 said confidently. Games were not exactly something he found interesting, but sabacc dealt with probability, so he was reasonably certain he could beat Solo. Even if he didn’t, using his own hands again was exciting enough by itself that he didn’t really care what the activity was.
Besides, Bodhi had mentioned missing sabacc.
Han only smirked. “Predict all you want, Boltbrain.”
“Ante up,” Jyn said, and everyone around the table, K-2 included, put down chips in both pots. They didn’t represent credits, for this game - gambling for money was strictly against Alliance regulations - but barter goods or favors. He considered what sort of favor or item he might want from the smuggler.
“You’re lucky my husband is in a light mood, Solo,” Chirrut said from the sofa. “He can be quite dogged when he plays for keeps.”
“And you can be quite irritating when you speak,” Baze shot back, but with the corner of his mouth curling up.
Chirrut grinned. “I always save my best annoyances for you, my darling.”
Jyn laughed as she shuffled, then dealt out two cards to each player including herself.
K-2 checked his cards. They totaled to twenty. A low card, or a higher card plus a negative card, would give him winning odds of over ninety percent.
Satisfied, he looked around the table. Baze looked mildly perturbed, Bodhi’s eyes darted everywhere, Solo was obviously trying to play it cool, and Cassian looked impassive.
Well, he would to almost anyone else. K-2 saw the way he held his hands, the exact depth of the lines around his eyes, and knew that Cassian was sitting on a hand even better than K-2’s.
“Hit or stay?” Jyn asked each player. Baze, Solo, K-2 and Jyn all accepted a third card.
When K-2 looked, he’d drawn a two. Now his odds of winning were even higher. He watched the others check their cards, too: A frown flashed across Solo’s face, Baze sighed the tiniest amount, while Jyn’s face didn’t change at all. “Raise,” she said, and tossed in a single chip. Everyone else followed suit.
They went through another round of hit or stay, this time only Bodhi and Solo taking cards.
“Raise,” Jyn said again.
Metal fingertips clicking faintly as he put his cards on the table, Bodhi said, “Fold.”
So did Baze. Everyone else stayed in.
K-2 displayed his total of twenty-two with some enjoyment, though he ultimately lost to Cassian, who’d been dealt the eleven of staves and commander of sabers. Solo came in with negative twenty-four and Jyn with the Idiot, the three of coins, and the Star.
Cassian raked in his winnings, though he spared a considering glance at Jyn.
They played another round, and another. K-2 won the second round with a pure sabacc, and Jyn the third with a total of nineteen.
The fourth round, Bodhi won with twenty-two. And the fifth with pure sabaac. He snatched victory from Cassian in the sixth round with an Idiot’s array. By the time they’d played eight rounds, nobody else had been able to touch him.
“That’s it, I’m out,” Solo muttered. “I’m gonna get a drink. You can bring me my deck later.”
They didn’t have to, it turned out, because everyone else decided Bodhi had won enough, and the games were over. They all went to the ship’s cantina together anyway, laughing and joking. Bodhi bought everyone a round of drinks to ease the sting of defeat, and he and Cassian were both happy enough that K-2 didn’t find the socializing too irritating.
Later, on their way back to the sleeping quarters, Bodhi grinned at K-2.
“You know I should be splitting my winnings with you for this one.”
K-2 tilted his head. “How did I contribute?”
“Well, you helped me learn Cassian’s tells, for one,” Bodhi said. “Would’ve taken me a lot longer, a guy like him. But you know him so well, all I had to do was watch you.”
K-2 processed this. “My own reactions to Cassian were that obvious?”
Bodhi shrugged. “Well, maybe not obvious, but I do know you pretty well after two months of repair work.”
“You can say I’m a terrible liar. It’s only true.”
Bodhi laughed. “Well, yes, that too.”
A strange feeling was overtaking K-2’s circuits. Or maybe just a strange variation of a feeling he already knew? He was impressed with Bodhi’s skills and ingenuity. He knew that much was accurate.
“How else did I help you?” he asked.
“Basically the same thing, just with the deck instead of Cassian,” he said. “I’m good enough with probability, but you’re amazing, and watching you gave me a better handle on it than I’ve ever had. Makes me wish we could play for credits.”
K-2 stopped himself from pointing out that no one who played for credits would allow a droid at the table.
“In that case, I calculate you owe me forty-three percent of the winnings.”
Bodhi laughed, and the sound somehow resonated in K-2’s chest. “That’s fair.”
Bodhi turned over for the eighth time in ten minutes. K-2 decided that this sleep disturbance merited further investigation.
There was a frustrated sigh. “Sorry to be a bother.”
“I am concerned, not irritated,” K-2 said. “What’s keeping you awake?”
Bodhi sat up and started kneading what was left of his right bicep. “Cramps. Massaging helps but there’s this one spot under my shoulder blade that I can’t reach and I think having tension there just makes the other muscles tense up again once I stop.”
“You require assistance.”
“Well, yeah, but I don’t want to wake anyone up for this.”
“Staff awake now, I know, but they’re busy taking care of people who need it.” He sighed. “I appreciate the thought, Kay, but I’ll just go heat up a washcloth or something.”
K-2 elected not to ask exactly why Bodhi was different from other patients and instead ran simulations. “That is unlikely to help for long.”
A snort. “Thanks, that’s so helpful.”
He looked down at his new hands. Tests had shown that he had sufficient control and precision to safely handle organics. “I could be of assistance. Therapeutic massage is included in my files on human medical procedures.”
Bodhi blinked in surprise. “You have medical files?”
K-2 scoffed. “Of course I do. They’ve saved Cassian’s life on eighteen separate occasions.”
Bodhi smiled softly. “He’s lucky to have you, you know.”
“I know.” K-2 held his hands out. “Well?”
Looking down and curling forward a little, Bodhi ran his hand down his hair. “I mean...if you don’t mind…”
“If I did, I wouldn’t have offered.”
Smiling slightly, Bodhi lay down again, his back to K-2. “Go ahead.”
K-2SO rolled himself forward until he was in easy reach of Bodhi while he opened the massage therapy files and Bodhi removed his shirt. He also redirected as much waste heat as possible from his vents to his hands.
Bodhi still tensed when K-2 touched his skin.
“You'll warm up in a minute or two, right? It'll be fine.”
“Alright. The procedure typically starts at the shoulders, works down the spine, and then moves to limbs. Is that acceptable?”
Bodhi shifted, already uncomfortable again. “Yeah, that's okay.”
Carefully, K-2 put his fingers on Bodhi’s trapezius. He had to make adjustments to the instructions, given that his palms were inflexible and had hard edges, but his fingertips and knuckles were rounded enough.
“You gotta press harder,” Bodhi said. “Really get in there.”
Cautious, K-2 gradually increased the pressure he was exerting. “Is that enough?”
“Just a little more,” Bodhi encouraged. K-2 complied, keeping a careful eye on Bodhi's skin color, breathing, and heart rate. When he reached a certain threshold of pressure, Bodhi lost a little of his tension.
“Yes, there, that's good,” Bodhi sighed. “Just keep doing it like that, Kay.”
K-2SO worked his fingertips in slow spirals moving down Bodhi’s shoulders and upper back. His muscles were like cords beneath his fingertips, but as he kneaded them and Bodhi’s body heat seeped into his plating, they began to soften.
Bodhi’s breathing was slowing. It was gratifying to be effective.
When K-2’s thumbs sunk into his rhomboids major, Bodhi hummed deep in his throat and relaxed so completely that K-2 understood for the first time why humans used the term ‘melting’ to describe such scenarios.
A wave of unfamiliar emotion swept through K-2, strong enough to make him pause for a second before continuing. The feeling intensified as he discovered that Bodhi had become so pliant and responsive that even the slightest change in touch moved through him like vibrations through water.
“There, right there Kay, thank you,” Bodhi sighed, quiet but fervent. “You’re the best.”
Off-balance and a second too late, K-2 said, “I know.”
He didn’t understand it. Against all reason he wanted to keep touching Bodhi, to keep inducing his reactions and registering them through sight and sound and touch. It was absurd. There was no point to it.
Following the prescribed pattern and duration of contact, K-2 moved to Bodhi’s lower back, then his right deltoid. He kept Bodhi’s preferred pressure but was more careful so close to the prosthetic interface.
He knew it upset Bodhi - and that it was an entirely reasonable reaction to losing an irreplaceable part of oneself - but K-2 didn’t find Bodhi’s prosthetic or scar tissue or asymmetry unpleasant. He didn’t find any part of Bodhi unpleasant.
Rather the opposite, in fact. His contrasts were visually appealing — dark hair against golden skin, metal arm gleaming softly and reflecting light against his body, emotions so visible and visibly different on his face — and intriguing. That he was perhaps the kindest person K-2 knew, but also delighted in jokes, teasing, and beating his friends at cards. That he could be so burdened with fear and self-doubt as to shake with them, yet simultaneously so brave that he could function despite them. K-2 wanted to watch Bodhi alive with the strength of his feelings. He wanted to feel the suppleness of his skin and hear laughter or passion in his voice. He wanted Bodhi to look at him with interest and affection, and he wanted an elegantly mismatched pair of hands to touch him with something other than businesslike efficiency.
Attraction was a preposterous sensation for a droid, but then it would hardly be the first ridiculous aspect of his existence, would it?
“Hm?” Bodhi murmured, already half asleep.
“Nothing,” K-2 said, unconvincing to any but the semi-conscious. He moved his hands back to Bodhi’s rhomboids. “Try to sleep.”
“‘Night,” Bodhi managed. As he drifted off, chest gently expanding and contracting, K-2 stilled. It took him longer than he wanted to admit to take his hands from Bodhi’s skin and pull the blanket up over him.
Bodhi slept well the rest of the night. K-2 spent it running thought experiments to better understand his feelings.
That, and watching over Bodhi.
“All of the joints work properly,” K-2 said, bending and straightening his new leg. He put one hand on the wall, positioned himself accordingly, and slowly put more and more weight on the limb until he was standing. “I require the other leg to make more extensive tests, but this one appears stable.”
Bodhi smiled and slumped back against his chair. “Good.”
“You should sleep,” K-2 urged. “I’ll put the tools away.”
“Thanks.” Bodhi stood, stretched, and, once again, took his clothes to the refresher to change. K-2 wasn’t sure what there was left for him to hide. He was also starting to question the usefulness of not offering to leave or temporarily shut off his optics.
By the time Bodhi returned, K-2 had finished tidying up. Bodhi hit the wall switch, and then it was only the golden tinge of K-2’s eyes making any light.
Bodhi lay down. He kept shifting.
K-2 evaluated the merits of offering another massage. He wasn’t sure he wanted to deal with the desires touching Bodhi would give him, but he was more concerned about his friend’s rest.
“Would you like another back rub?” K-2 was pleased that his vocoder didn’t sound out of the ordinary.
Bodhi stilled. A few seconds passed. “No, thanks.”
K-2 nodded. It was perfectly reasonable. And spared him the torrent of want.
So why was he so disappointed?
With two of them to do the work, K-2’s legs were the quickest to build, and it wasn’t more than another few days before the second was complete. After a brief test period, K-2SO was cleared for missions.
K-2 packed up the crate with all the tools and parts Bodhi wouldn’t need for his own limbs. As he did so, a sinking feeling came over him. He wasn’t sure what was causing it.
“Sure you don’t want a fun paint job?” Bodhi teased. K-2 knew that Bodhi's eyes were following him around the room, seeming to take delight his work being appreciated. “I think I heard some astromechs talking about Aleenan stars being fashionable these days. There’s still time.”
“I want to ask Cassian which color scheme he prefers first,” K-2 deadpanned. Bodhi laughed, but it didn’t ease K-2's apprehension. If anything, it made it worse.
It didn’t make sense. Accompanying Cassian on missions was something he’d been wanting to do. Dreaming about, in the long stretches of waiting in between parts being made or while Bodhi was sleeping. So why was he unhappy now?
K-2SO placed the crate onto the cart, and pushed it towards the door. He’d shortly be returning it to the machining shop where Bodhi had borrowed it from in the first place.
“My bet’s on blue,” Bodhi said. “Maybe some orange accents.”
K-2 was going to bring the materials to the shop, and then he was going to go help Cassian prepare for the mission, and then he was going to go on the mission. After the mission, the default would be for him to stay with Cassian or the other droids.
He wasn’t coming back to Bodhi’s quarters.
The feeling solidified. K-2SO turned his back on it and the cart.
“I have something for you,” he said.
Bodhi blinked, surprised. “Oh?”
K-2 opened the compartment in his arm, pulled the datachip he’d been storing there, and handed it to Bodhi. “As sign of gratitude.”
“Oh, you didn’t have to...What is it?” Bodhi’s shyness gave way to curiosity as he picked up his datapad.
“See for yourself,” K-2 said, suddenly nervous. It was quite possibly a terrible idea.
Bodhi plugged the chip in, opened the files, and scrolled through the index. His eager expression was slowly replaced with a slight frown, and then his eyes widened.
“Kay,” he said, a little strangled. “Is this…”
“A list of Jedhan survivors and their last known locations,” K-2 confirmed.
Bodhi clutched the datapad to himself, wide eyes filling with tears as he looked up at K-2SO.
“This is incredible.” His voice was thick. Wiping his eyes, he put the datapad on his bed with the utmost care, then moved forward, arms coming up around K-2’s waist, face tucked against his chest plate.
K-2 froze, the flood of reliefjoyaffectionsadnesswant preventing analysis, Bodhi’s fragile form precluding motion.
“Sorry,” Bodhi said, and started to pull away. “Should have asked.”
“I do not mind,” K-2 said, putting his hands on Bodhi’s shoulderblades.
“Thank you,” Bodhi said, squeezing tighter. “This means a lot. I don’t think I can say how much.”
A number of possible responses presented themselves, but, “The state of my processors indicates that I cannot, either.”
Bodhi chuckled, the sound resonating in the hollow of K-2's chest compartment, and the droid decided that he wouldn’t be the one to end the embrace.
K-2 presented himself in the shuttle bay to find Cassian busy checking mission supplies. When he looked up and saw K-2, he broke into a smile.
“Better go claim the pilot’s seat,” he said, gesturing over his shoulder.
K-2 didn’t like the sound of that. “Why? Who’s going to try to take it?”
Cassian’s eyes darted behind K-2, and he nodded in the same direction.
K-2 turned around. Trotting towards the shuttle was the same blond who’d called Cassian away from their initial reunion. He also, K-2 had learned after asking around (well, and surreptitiously slicing the Alliance database), was Luke Skywalker. K-2 was reluctantly grateful for the positive influence he’d had on Cassian’s sleeping habits and for bringing down the Death Star, but still had no reason to trust the human on a personal level.
He was seated and beginning the preflight checklist by the time the humans boarded.
“Cassian, why is your droid in the pilot’s seat? He’s not an astromech,” Skywalker said, half interested and half put out.
“You should ask him,” Cassian said. K-2 heard him sealing the ship’s hatch and stowing his bags.
“Uh. Okay. Hello,” Skywalker said, leaning on the co-pilot’s chair. “I’m Luke. You’re Kay-tu, right?”
“You can call me Kay-tuesso,” K-2 said. He waited until Luke opened his mouth to ask about the piloting, and then he continued. “I have two thousand, seven hundred and twenty-one flight hours experience under varied conditions. My reaction times, precision of control, strength and endurance are superior to organics. My piloting has saved Cassian’s life twelve times, salvaged nine missions, and prevented the loss of two ships.” Then he turned to look at Skywalker for the first time, and found the man looking a little stunned. “I hear you’re good, for an organic. You may co-pilot if you wish.”
Behind them, Cassian coughed like he only did when he was covering a laugh.
K-2 turned back to the console. A moment later, Luke took the co-pilot seat.
Cassian and K-2 were waiting in a side alley for Luke to comm them, Cassian taking intermittent bites of a meiloorun, K-2 monitoring signal chatter.
For weeks, K-2 had been mulling over the strangeness of his new feelings. He’d come to the conclusion that an outside perspective could be useful.
“I’ve been trying to understand something,” K-2 said.
Cassian looked up at him. “Oh?”
“I’ve researched the problem, of course, but the various sources I’ve consulted contradict one another.”
Cassian pulled out his canteen, opened it, and nodded. “That’s not too uncommon. What’s your problem?”
“I believe I’ve developed a sexuality. I am unsure how to proceed.”
Cassian choked, spraying water over the speeder’s dash.
K-2 waited for Cassian to stop coughing. “It is ridiculous, isn’t it? All my calculations suggest that there is a less than four percent chance of reciprocation. I’ve tried to accept that.”
Breathing returning to normal, Cassian got an uncomfortable look on his face. He was suddenly sitting very still.
“Oh. I don’t have these feelings for you,” K-2 clarified. “For which I am grateful. Your recklessness is worrisome enough for a friend.”
All his tension escaped Cassian in a laugh. “Fair enough. Then…oh.” Cassian’s relief turned to sympathy. “It’s Bodhi, isn’t it.”
Feeling more exposed than he had been with his chassis open, K-2 nodded.
Cassin laid a hand on K-2’s arm. “Nobody really knows what to do in this kind of situation,” he said. “You tell him or you don’t. He rejects you or he doesn’t. Any of those scenarios could end badly.”
K-2 sighed. “I was afraid of that.”
They sat like that for a few minutes.
“Speaking of which,” K-2 began.
“No,” said Cassian. “I don’t want to discuss it.”
“I can tell Luke admires you.”
“I said no, Kay.”
“And you’ve reduced some of your bad behavior under his influence.”
“We are not having this discussion.”
“And don’t tell me you haven’t been looking. I notice these things.”
Cassian crossed his arms and did his best to ignore K-2.
“You should at least consider pursuit. Or allow him to pursue you.”
Cassian's best was not sufficient. “If I say yes, will you shut up about it?”
For someone who escaped the Empire - twice - and helped destroy the galaxy’s worst superweapon, it was perhaps ironically mundane that it was a faulty crate falling from its hoverlift that damaged Bodhi’s prosthetic leg.
“Kriff,” Bodhi cursed, glaring at the equipment pinning him to the floor.
K-2 unceremoniously left the Mon Calamari quartermaster he’d been assisting to go to Bodhi’s side. He easily removed the crate.
“The knee’s busted,” Bodhi sighed. “Kriff. And the ankle.” He looked up at K-2 with chagrin. “Help me up? I should be able to get back to my room.”
“I will assist you,” K-2 said. One arm behind his knees, one around his waist, K-2 picked up Bodhi entirely and started walking towards the sleeping quarters.
“Uh, you don’t have to...I mean…” Bodhi said, face reddening.
“Your leg will not bear weight for any distance,” K-2 told him.
“I, um.” Bodhi twined his hands in his lap and looked away. “You’re probably right.”
The arrangement earned them a few odd looks, but no one questioned it.
They reached the appropriate corridor and K-2 bent down, carefully negotiating the doorway to Bodhi’s quarters. A few tools and parts still lingered on the worktable, but most of the rebuild mess was gone, leaving just a bedroom with a slowly-growing collection of personal effects: clothing, a potted succulent, a deck of cards. It was good to see Bodhi settling in, even as the faint disappointment of no longer belonging pinged through his circuits.
“Just set me down on the chair,” Bodhi said, gesturing. K-2 did, gently, and then turned to get the necessary tools. Bodhi removed the prosthetic, and then they both worked until it was repaired.
“Good thing I had spare parts on hand,” Bodhi sighed. “I’ll need to replenish my stash now, though.”
He checked it over, oiled the joints, and cleaned his hands. Then replaced the synthskin cover.
The leg was designed to not need removing very often, but also not to require tools to attach or re-attach it; that meant that there were a number of catches along the inside of the prosthetic’s socket, and that one had to have a certain amount of force to make them engage.
To that end, K-2 kneeled on the floor, Bodhi’s synthetic foot on his thigh, K-2’s hands behind Bodhi’s hips so he could provide leverage for Bodhi to click the prosthetic into place. The joy and sense of well-being induced by the touch were, embarrassingly and more than slightly worryingly, of nearly organic levels.
Once that was done, he should have moved back, wished Bodhi good night, and left.
He didn’t. He couldn’t even pull his hands away from where they were absorbing Bodhi’s warmth. When he looked up, he was caught in Bodhi’s eyes, too, unable to look away.
“Kay,” Bodhi said, voice heavy, and K-2 finally snatched himself away. Stood up. Was still staring at Bodhi.
He couldn’t name the look on Bodhi’s face. It wasn’t one he’d seen there before, and it made his analytic processes churn out a number of unhelpfully distressing scenarios.
“Kay,” Bodhi said again. In the quiet between the words K-2 heard Bodhi’s heart beating fast, his respiration speeding up. His hands, however, were perfectly steady. “Do you want to touch me?”
Alarm and desire flashed through K-2. “That…” His gaze fled and he started visually cataloging the items on the worktable. Wrestled down all the true things he could say. In all his algorithms, in all his analysis, he had nothing for this; nothing to tell him what the optimal course of action would be. Would Bodhi be upset by the truth? Would he be understanding? Was there even the tiniest hint the attraction could be mutual? Or had K-2 misinterpreted a simple query about platonic physical contact?
And further, how would the different outcomes affect them both? If Bodhi were upset by K-2’s feelings, he might decide to end their friendship. If he wasn’t, things would continue on much as before.
K-2 found that the negative outcomes were unacceptable, so he hid his truth behind a simpler one. “That would be absurd. I am a droid. Droids don’t want touch.”
He couldn’t bear to look at Bodhi, even without facial expressions to betray him; still, he heard in utmost clarity a deep inhalation, and the sounds of Bodhi’s prosthetic working as he stood. K-2 didn’t know what that meant. The uncertainty was agonizing.
“Absurd or not,” Bodhi said, voice soft, “I’d like it if you did.”
K-2’s optics snapped onto Bodhi in astonishment. “You would?” His words buzzed around the edges, voice box unstable with how much extra energy was flowing through it. He couldn’t help it.
Bodhi was looking at him with those huge dark eyes of his, all his attention on K-2, and reached out his organic hand, palm up. “Come here.”
Optics bouncing between Bodhi’s face and hand, K-2 gingerly reached out. When his plating touched Bodhi’s skin, it was like an electric charge traveling through his chassis, enough to make his arm shake.
It was awkward, standing there hand in hand, especially since he had no idea how to continue, but Bodhi was smiling at him. That really shouldn’t have caused such a cascade of emotional subroutines, but it did. K-2 found himself leaning closer.
“What do you want?” Bodhi asked him.
K-2 looked at their clasped hands.
“I...don’t really know. I like touching you. I like seeing you respond to my touch.”
It really shouldn’t have been fascinating, the way Bodhi bit his lower lip while smiling.
“I’m on board,” Bodhi said. He stepped backwards, pulling K-2 with him, and sat them both on the bed. Then he put his synthetic hand on K-2’s shoulder, leaned up, and clarified his intentions by kissing K-2’s face on the housing of his vocoder.
K-2’s processes raced through his core, lines and lines of code of shock, joy, desire.
When Bodhi pulled back, his skin was flushed and he was grinning. “Been wanting to do that.”
K-2 let go of Bodhi’s hand so he could cup his face, thumbs brushing over his cheekbones, before curling one hand around through his hair to rest at the nape of his neck, the other sliding down his throat to settle on his chest. Bodhi’s pulse and respiration were increasing. At their current rates, his body heat would soon follow.
“Yes,” K-2 found himself saying. “Responsive.”
Bodhi, hand resting on K-2’s wrist, laughed. “I’ve only just started responding, Kay.” He pulled K-2’s hand, dragging it down over his chest and stomach, then pulled the hem of his shirt from his waistband. K-2’s fingers seemed to move of their own accord, seeking the warmth and softness of Bodhi’s bare skin, and another torrent of subroutines pounded through his circuits.
He slid his hand up again, taking Bodhi’s shirt with it, and then he paused.
"Go ahead," Bodhi urged. "It's okay. I want you to see me now."
K-2 continued, exposing more and more of Bodhi's skin and body hair. Before, the droid had always found humans’ vestigial fur amusing, but on Bodhi it was enticing and he found himself following its patterns with his fingers.
“Kay,” Bodhi’s breath stuttered as he pulled the shirt all the way off. He leaned into K-2’s hands, fingers curling around the droid’s neck joints and shoulder, and licked his lips. “Can you give me a massage from this angle?”
"I think so." K-2 slid his hands around Bodhi’s ribs and up his back. There was a slight delay as he translated the movement commands, but then he was able to push his fingertips into the muscles at the base of Bodhi’s skull and start kneading. Bodhi’s eyes drifted shut, dark lashes resting on his cheeks, and he rocked slightly with every circle of K-2’s hands.
“This is very pleasing,” K-2 said.
Eyes still closed, a languid smile spread over Bodhi’s face. “Mm, yeah, I’d say so too.”
K-2 moved out across his shoulders, enjoying the way Bodhi leaned down to kiss one of K-2’s hands. Then back in and down, Bodhi still letting himself be moved.
K-2’s fingers found the tense place behind Bodhi’s shoulder blades, and Bodhi moaned, the sound rumbling through his chest and K-2’s plating, activating enough processes that it felt like a power surge. K-2 found himself leaning closer, watching in rapt fascination as the man relaxed, head falling back, going almost entirely limp in K-2’s hands.
“Bodhi,” K-2 said, unsure of what to do with the sheer energy buzzing through his system, but certain that Bodhi was the cause and the solution. “You’ve never made that noise before.”
K-2 hit another knot, and Bodhi whined, eliciting another spike of desire. “Wanted to,” he managed. “Wasn’t exactly appropriate.”
“Oh. Is that why you stopped accepting my offers?” K-2 thought he might be starting to understand. He glanced down at Bodhi’s lap, and - yes. “Because it was sexually stimulating?”
Bodhi huffed a laugh that turned into yet another moan when K-2 dragged his thumbs down both sides of the human's spine, hands coming to rest at the small of his back. “Wouldn’t have been fair. Not when you still needed me.”
A pang of tenderness joined the clamour of desire. “You are a good man, Bodhi.”
Bodhi opened his dilated eyes to smile softly up into K-2’s. Their amber glow made him look made of bronze. “Nah, just not a bad one.” He slid forward, arms around K-2’s neck, and stood up.
“Undress me,” he said.
K-2’s hands shook slightly on his belt. They were steady again when he unbuttoned Bodhi’s pants, unzipped the fly, and tugged the garment down his legs.
“Underwear too,” Bodhi said at K-2’s hesitation.
K-2’s fingers curled into the elastic, and then he was pulling the briefs down too, careful not to catch them on Bodhi’s nascent erection, and then Bodhi was standing naked in his arms.
“You are aesthetically pleasing,” K-2 said. “As organics go.”
Bodhi laughed, delighted. “High praise.” He sank back down onto the bed, draping his legs over K-2’s lap. “Go back to the massage?”
K-2 picked up where he left off, kneading the small of Bodhi’s back. He completed only about two circles before Bodhi started to melt into K-2’s hands again, but this time he could also observe not just his muscular and cardiovascular responses but also watch his phallus become engorged. He wanted to touch, to see what other noises he could get Bodhi to make, but his data indicated that a more gradual approach was generally considered desirable, especially for new lovers.
That was perfectly acceptable. He couldn’t imagine getting bored of touching Bodhi in any way.
Bodhi sagged even more, thighs spreading, head lolling back, and K-2 traced his fingertips down the line of Bodhi’s exposed throat, the hollow of his collar bones, and down to one nipple. When K-2 gently squeezed it, Bodhi gasped, arms tightening on K-2’s shoulders, and that was very gratifying.
“More,” Bodhi said.
K-2 hummed and rolled the nipple between two fingers, other hand half supporting, half massaging Bodhi’s back, able to feel every twitch and inhalation and arch of Bodhi’s spine. He kept that up, teasing and stroking until Bodhi’s sounds had merged into a single loud moan, and then he switched his hand to the other nipple.
“Fuck, that’s good, fuck,” Bodhi intoned. His hands opened and closed on K-2’s plating. “Don’t think I can take much more, though,” and he put a hand on Kay’s wrist, guided his hand down.
“Kay,” Bodhi practically sang when K-2’s fingers curled around his cock. “Yeah, ohmygods, yeah, like that, fuck,” and he adjusted K-2’s grip, taught him the angle he liked, the speed. K-2 used those parameters, observed Bodhi’s reactions to make changes as needed, and soon Bodhi was half-yelling a string of filthy praise loud enough to be audible from the corridor and surrounding rooms. K-2 didn’t care; Bodhi was what mattered, warm and trembling and alive in his hands, receiving and thereby giving pleasure.
“Oh shit I’m gonna come,” Bodhi gasped, and reached down between them, “I should have thought of - ah - Kay -” he cried, and just before it was too late he cupped his organic hand over K-2’s, catching the fluid his orgasm pumped out of him, cursing repeatedly and shaking.
When it was over, K-2 let him collapse back onto the mattress. Both of their hands were a mess. K-2 found a stray sock and used it to clean up.
Practically boneless, Bodhi watched him through half-lidded eyes. “Come here,” he said for the second time.
K-2 wasn’t sure what Bodhi expected, since he had a zero percent chance of fitting on the bed, but he angled himself and leaned over so that his chest was aligned with Bodhi’s, his arms bracketing the human’s body, their foreheads touching.
Bodhi reached up to wrap his arms around K-2, the synthetic one clanking faintly against his plating.
“Have fun?” Bodhi murmured.
“I found the experience highly enjoyable,” K-2 said. “I would like to repeat it.”
Bodhi’s arms tightened. “Good. So would I.”
That was encouraging. “If you’re amenable, I want to experiment with different techniques.”
Bodhi laughed. “Well, I won’t make promises, but I’ll probably like a lot of your ideas. I have some of my own, too.”
A new series of predictive subroutines started up. “Oh?”
“Yeah,” Bodhi said. “There’s got to be a way to simulate orgasm for you. I’m sure someone somewhere has already figured it out.”
K-2 imagined Bodhi initiating a program, or using a tool, that could put him into a pleasurable overload. All his fans activated at once. “I would like that.”
Bodhi chuckled softly. His arms began to loosen.
“‘M falling asleep,” he said muzzily. “You’re welcome to stay, but I understand if you get bored and want to leave.”
The position K-2SO was currently holding would require fourteen percent more power than a more efficient pose, but his charge could sustain it. He brushed hair from Bodhi’s face and drew the blanket over him. “I will stay.”
Eyes closed, Bodhi smiled. K-2 couldn't find it in himself to be bothered by how happy that made him.
As he observed Bodhi’s chest rising and falling, rising and falling, K-2 ran a deep analysis of the present and extrapolated possible futures.
Bodhi slept without nightmares.
Bodhi woke slowly, first beginning to move more, then his heart rate increasing, then opening his eyes. Once he’d blinked the sleep from them and focused on K-2, his face broke into a bright smile.
“Good morning,” K-2 said.
Bodhi scooted closer, synthetic hand coming to rest on K-2’s back. It meant K-2 could tighten the arm he still had around Bodhi. It was warm from being around him all night, but he still wished to be closer.
After a few minutes, Bodhi sat up. He leaned back against the wall, though he kept his organic fingers entwined with K-2’s.
“So, I decided what I want to do next,” he said.
An unpleasant combination of hope and apprehension began processing in K-2’s core, but all he did was nod to indicate attention.
Bodhi swallowed and looked down. “I mean, eventually I want to help other Jedhans, help find a new home or at least each other, but, um. Before that. I want to run supplies for the Alliance. Smuggle past blockades, maybe do some transport work. I miss flying and I need to help.”
That would be dangerous, which K-2 didn’t approve of at all, but it was less dangerous than Cassian’s job. Or piracy. Bodhi knew about the droid’s reservations, though, so K-2 made an effort not to point it out.
A different problem would be that Bodhi would be off base most of the time, rarely able to spend time with K-2.
K-2 didn’t mention that, either, or his violent emotional reaction to the idea, or his surprise at his own vehemence.
“The generals will be happy to have you,” he said instead. It was true, but his vocabulator still sounded overclocked.
Bodhi darted a glance at him, his hand tightening around K-2’s fingers.
“And, well…” he took a deep breath, and when he exhaled it seemed as though he breathed out all his nervous tics along with it. His dark eyes met K-2’s optics unflinchingly, his voice steady. “Will you go with me?”
For a long moment, K-2 felt as though time stopped, and then his processes exploded into joy. He couldn’t throw his arms around Bodhi without hurting him, but he hugged him a little more fiercely than he otherwise would.
“Yes,” he said.
Bodhi laughed, and his hands trembled against K-2’s plating, and he turned to kiss K-2’s face. “Good,” he said. “Good.”